AAFP Leaders Carry Family Medicine Message to White House Meeting

December 22, 2010 03:25 pm James Arvantes

AAFP President Roland Goertz, M.D., of Waco, Texas, and AAFP President-elect Glenn Stream, M.D., of Spokane, Wash., represented the interests of family medicine at a Dec. 17 White House meeting that focused on how to reduce hospital readmission rates and how to make accountable care organizations, or ACOs, work better.

Goertz told AAFP News Now after the meeting that he addressed the issue of hospital readmission rates by telling administration officials and health care leaders at the meeting that hospitals need to do a better job of collaborating with family physicians and other primary care physicians to reduce readmissions.

"I said hospitals need to stop thinking about themselves as only hospitals. They need to reach out to family physicians and other primary care physicians in the area if they really want to address the readmission problems," said Goertz. "Hospitals can do that in several different ways, but the sharing of patient information -- particularly at discharge -- is very important."

The White House convened the meeting to ask for input on how to improve patient safety in hospitals and decrease readmission rates. Administration officials also wanted to gather input on how to help physicians and other health care professionals make ACOs work better. The administration is planning to launch a major patient safety initiative in January, as well as releasing rules and regulations for ACOs, which are called for in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The meeting was attended by key administration officials, including CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, M.D.; Nancy-Ann DeParle, head of the White House Office of Health Reform; Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D., a White House health adviser; and Peter Lee, J.D., director of delivery system reform in the Office of Health Reform at HHS. The meeting itself included about 70 participants who represented physician organizations, disease-focused groups, medical associations, medical centers and the American Hospital Association, among others.

Administration officials answered a few inquiries, but they mainly asked questions in an attempt to obtain feedback and guidance, said Goertz. Berwick addressed the participants at the end of the meeting, telling them, "It is all about the patients, when it comes down to it."

"I was pleased to represent our members and their patients at the meeting," said Goertz. "I am also extremely happy to note that, during the meeting, others mentioned the importance of family physicians and primary care. We are making a difference, and others are helping."

Goertz vowed to continue "giving the views of family medicine," which, he said, "are essentially the views of physicians who are on the front lines of patient care."